What was the Japanese outlook after the First World War

Japan and Germany: Similarities and Differences

Even though 2011 will always be remembered as the year of the earthquake and tsunami disaster and the Fukushima reactor disaster for Japan and the world, it is also the year in which Japan and Germany celebrate the 150th anniversary of their relationship. One can certainly see that this friendship has proven itself even in the hour of need. The 150th anniversary of the signing of the trade, shipping and friendship treaty between Prussia and Japan on January 24, 1861 gives an occasion to review the joint development, to take stock and to look to the future. The German Bundestag was happy to use the anniversary as an opportunity to adopt a clear decision, supported by all parliamentary groups, on deepening cooperation between Germany and Japan.

150 years of German-Japanese relations

Germany's bilateral relationship with Japan has traditionally been trusting and friendly. Common values ​​such as human rights, the rule of law and free democracy, but also the free market economy, are a strong link. There is also a great deal of similarity between the two countries at the beginning of their nation-state development. Both countries were "late arrivals" in history. In both Japan and Germany, industrialization began with a delay compared to Great Britain and France in the middle and towards the end of the 19th century. They appeared on the world stage almost simultaneously as newly united nations: Japan with the Meji Restoration of 1868, Germany with Bismarck's establishment in 1871.

After the First World War, in which Japan and Germany were hostile to each other, there was a rapprochement between Germany and Japan. Relations now focused primarily on the cultural area. A cultural agreement was concluded and various cultural institutions were founded, such as the Japan Institute (Berlin, 1926), the Japanese-German Cultural Institute (Tokyo, 1927), and the Japanese-German Research Institute (Kyoto, 1934).

When the National Socialists came to power in Germany, the Japanese-German relationship developed into a war alliance. However, there was no substantial cooperation between Japan and Germany during the war. Germany and Japan fought their wars of aggression and conquest separately, with devastating consequences for the people in the neighboring countries affected - as well as in their home countries. Both states were undoubtedly totalitarian states, but Japan was never a "fascist" state. The alliance with Nazi Germany was always controversial in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and the "Anti-Comintern Pact" did not prevent Japan from concluding a neutrality agreement with the Soviet Union in 1941. To exaggerate the German-Japanese relationship up to 1945, from a Japanese point of view, one could describe as a partnership of purpose with reservations. Both states were firmly anchored in their regions, which they also made the target of their aggression. The Second World War ended for both countries in 1945 in unconditional surrender and in a political and moral catastrophe.

After the end of the war, the Potsdam Declaration forced Japan to leave the occupied territories and to limit its state territory to its four main islands. A political reorganization began in the democratic sense and based on the American model. The Empire of the Rising Sun retained its emperor, but he only had a representative function. From now on, the country was ruled by the Reichstag, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. After the Second World War, both Japanese and Germans had to start from scratch. Both managed to work their way out of the rubble within a relatively short time; the Japanese followed the German economic miracle. They took second and third place among the world's economic powers (and held them until recently when emerging China overtook them). In addition, since their traumatic experiences in the first half of this century, both states have renounced traditional power politics. After the Second World War, they tried to promote their interests by means of economic and financial instruments, by linking them to the USA and integrating them into multilateral institutions - for which the concept of civil power was developed in political science.

In the course of Japan's open foreign policy, especially towards the USA and the EU (then EC), contacts with Germany were also intensified. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed in 1952. As a result of the "economic miracle" in the Federal Republic and the increased concentration of Japan on trade with the United States, the economy grew enormously. In the second half of the 1960s there was a rapid growth in bilateral trade, which made Japan the world's second largest economy. This also led to a resumption of cultural and scientific exchange. Japan joined the United Nations in 1956, and in 1975 Japan became a founding member of the G 7, now the G 8.

After the experience with the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the country is very strongly committed to the military use of atomic energy. According to the constitution, Japan stayed out of all international armed conflicts for a long time and instead promoted a multilateral trade policy geared towards free trade and pursued checkbook diplomacy similar to Germany. Japan has the second largest development cooperation budget in the world after the US. In January 2004, for the first time since 1945, parliament approved the sending of Japanese soldiers to a foreign country, namely Iraq. While the then Prime Minister Koizumi saw this as proof of the close friendly relations with the USA, many Japanese viewed this as a breach of the constitution.

This was accompanied by the resumption and expansion of cultural and scientific exchange. The Japanese Cultural Institute was founded in Cologne in 1969 and the framework agreement for the exchange of science between Japan and Germany was signed in 1974. A lively mutual visiting activity began at the highest political level. The highlight was the Japanese Emperor Hirohito's visit to Germany in 1971. The Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) was founded in 1985 and the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) was founded in Tokyo in 1988; the number of Japanology chairs almost doubled during the 1980s. Finally, in 1993, the "German-Japanese Dialogue Forum" was created, which was intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas between leading representatives from politics, business and the media.

Common challenges in the 21st century

The shared commitment to solving global challenges and to ensuring peace and stability in regional trouble spots makes Germany and Japan natural partners for the 21st century. Germany and Japan can live up to this responsibility if they develop new initiatives based on the solid foundation of the German-Japanese partnership.

In the course of close economic, scientific and cultural cooperation, foreign policy cooperation has also intensified in recent decades. Both countries also face similar challenges and problems: the aging and shrinking of their populations; the security of the energy supply; the integration of the emerging young powers, especially China, in the existing global regulatory institutions and the management, if possible, the prevention of climate change. Germany and Japan are jointly pursuing their interests in key future issues such as disarmament and non-proliferation and global governance. Japan is also increasingly relying on regional cooperation and the formation of joint institutions.

Both countries are also applying for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The stance on UN Security Council reform as well as the close coordination on common positions on climate protection and further joint steps to secure peace, e.g. in Afghanistan and Central Asia, deepen the trusting cooperation and make a contribution to shaping the globalization process. Bilateral cooperation is now being significantly supplemented by increasingly intensive cooperation in the EU, NATO and OSCE context. Joint efforts in anti-piracy operations and considerations on Japanese participation in CSDP missions point to the future potential of the partnership of responsibility.

Germany and Japan both have competitive, export-oriented economies. Free world trade, further dismantling of trade barriers and free exchange rates are in our common interest. Japanese-German relations are also extremely close in the economic sector. Germany is still Japan's largest trading partner within Europe, while, conversely, Japan was Germany's most important trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region for many years. It was not until the end of 2002 that the volume of German-Chinese foreign trade exceeded the volume between Japan and Germany for the first time. There are no major differences such as trade disputes between the two countries. Japan is also an important target for German investments in the investment area, such as DaimlerChrysler's stake in Mitsubishi Motor Corp. made clear in 2000. In addition, in view of the increasing globalization of the economy and the advancing aging of their societies as mature industrial nations, both countries see themselves faced with common tasks such as the need for structural reforms and the promotion of new, forward-looking industries. Both countries still have enough leeway to work together on these issues.

In addition, demographic change is aggravating the situation in both countries. The aging population poses a major challenge to the resilience of the social security systems and the pension system in both economies. Germany can still learn something from the Japanese perception in terms of the appreciation of older and more experienced workers. Without an integrative attitude towards the elderly, they will be devalued and the notion of no longer being sufficiently qualified to have opportunities on the labor market and to be needed grows. If this attitude does not change in the minds of Germans, the older population will withdraw from working life sooner and will no longer be able to make transfer payments.

Demographic change poses major challenges for both countries, and not just financially. The low birth rate in both countries has always been below two children per woman since the mid-1970s and reached 1.4 in 2009. The low rates of recent years are now also affecting the number of university graduates, which is falling as a result. Since both countries owe their good economic position to skilled workers and a high level of technological development, the low number of university graduates endangers this supremacy. In order to continue to guarantee the basis for innovation and to compensate for the shortage of skilled workers, a new immigration policy is required. While Germany is slowly opening the influx but is still not able to permanently attract highly qualified specialists, Japan is still showing itself to be reserved. As the second and fourth largest economies, both economies therefore face the same challenges in some cases. The good relations between Germany and Japan are also of great interest for domestic political problems where both states can benefit from each other in dialogue.

For a close exchange between science and culture

Scientific exchange has always played an important role in bilateral relations. This is especially true for German and Japanese universities: since the university reform of 2004, 30 top Japanese universities have been called "Centers of Excellence", offering a favorable environment for the similarly oriented "Excellence Initiative" in Germany. Various university collaborations are supplemented by a large number of project agreements and cooperation agreements with non-university research institutes.

The cultural exchange is also intensive and varied: The dense cultural network with 57 Japanese-German societies, 299 university cooperations, approx. 250 German-speaking lecturers, 60 city partnerships and the three branches of the Goethe Institute in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto is the basis and starting point for a variety of events . There are currently more than 30,000 Japanese living in Germany, over 7,000 of them in the North Rhine-Westphalian state capital Düsseldorf. The city on the Rhine is thus the largest Japanese city in Europe after London and Paris.

The further intensification and balancing of the cultural and scientific exchange remains an important task for the future. In the education and science sectors, however, greater efforts are needed to improve the learning of the German language and the exchange of students between German and Japanese universities. The German Bundestag is convinced that the younger generation is of particular importance in shaping the relationship between the two countries and building trust between them. Knowing that the young generation turns solid partnerships into lively relationships, the German Bundestag suggests the creation of a coordinator for youth exchanges. This is intended to promote greater awareness of existing exchange programs among young people in both countries and to encourage and maintain interest in learning the respective language. In order to promote bilateral relations and with a view to international parliamentary cooperation, the German Bundestag is also striving to expand contacts and the exchange of experiences with the Japanese parliament. This goal is to be given special visibility through the award of scholarships in the anniversary year 2011.

Fukushima - the end of the nuclear age?

In the past, both Germany and Japan's growing hunger for energy could only be adequately satisfied through imports. In order to keep the dependency on the oil-exporting countries low and to counteract the fluctuating raw material prices, an investment in cheap nuclear energy was an obvious choice. The combination of dependency, high technological development and lucrative prices increased the attractiveness of atomic energy and also made it possible to ignore the geologically explosive situation in Japan. The high standard of technology in both countries has made it possible to use nuclear energy peacefully. However, this also led to the fallacy of having the atomic force of nature under control and being able to exclude dangers. As the tragedy of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima showed, the potential danger was significantly underestimated despite the high safety standards.

The nightmare that struck the archipelago on March 11, 2011 at around 2:45 p.m. local time tore thousands of people to their deaths, razed residential areas and destroyed the livelihoods of countless farmers and fishermen. The still ubiquitous consequences of the worst catastrophe since World War II and the most devastating nuclear accident since Chernobyl extend far beyond the rubble. The decades of trust in the government and other authorities have largely been lost. While the Nobel laureate in literature Oe Kenzaburo, an important voice of intellectual Japan, made an unequivocal statement against atomic energy in «Le Monde» just a few days after March 11th, the bestselling author Haruki Murakami broke shortly before the big nationwide protest on June 11th Silence on the subject of Fukushima. He declared the demise of the country's own technological myth and sided with the opponents of nuclear power. In his opinion, based on the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese should have said "no" to nuclear technology from the start. It is now everyone's duty to check their electricity consumption. It is wrong to put efficiency above everything and just carry on like this. For too long, the citizens of Japan have endured without contradiction that the corporations, in close collaboration with the government, disregarded security requirements in favor of profit maximization. The task now is to gain a new ethical dimension in terms of energy production and consumption. It is better than an? Unrealistic dreamer? To be ridiculed for continuing to accept everything. Soon, according to Murakami, the Japanese citizens would give up their restraint in order to revolt properly.

Either way, Japan is at a turning point. Despite all difficulties, the will to overcome them on one's own is impressive. Anyone who drives through the disaster areas meets Japanese everywhere who, with unwavering perseverance, set out to take their fate into their own hands and to rebuild their old homeland bit by bit.

The crisis in mainland Japan was received with shock by the international community.Germany's humanitarian aid and, last but not least, the change in energy policy and Germany's planned exit from nuclear energy show that Japan's friendly states have drawn the consequences of the disaster in Fukushima.

Japan is disciplined, perfectly organized - but after March 11, the crisis management in Fukushima was chaotic. The Japanese now view not only their political elite with greater skepticism, but also the nuclear lobby from business, politics and science. Belief in the supposedly safe atomic energy has been shaken. But is that enough for an energy turnaround in Japan - or will the nuclear lobby soon return to its former strength? A political earthquake followed on March 11th in Germany. In Japan, German reporting was met with incomprehension, and there was talk of scare tactics.


Japan can still be so modern,? Western? and being industrialized, the social processes and manners that are strongly ritualized for the eyes of a European observer are fascinating, but also remain alien. The question of tradition and change in society alone opens up extremely interesting perspectives. Understanding the actors, interests and the decision-making structure of Japanese politics from the outside is a challenge. The frequent changes of government, for example, are a difficult phenomenon to penetrate. The party landscape also shows special characteristics, since in comparison to Germany it is less the large popular parties (in relatively stable coalitions with smaller partners) that alternate in the government, but rather the many party foundations and spin-offs result in a confusing picture. Japan's economic and industrial policy is shaped by the performance principle and the joy of innovation. Alone the geographical location as an island state, which has hardly any raw material deposits of its own, required economic and political ingenuity.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Japanese-German relations are less complicated than ever. Due to a multitude of common interests, actions and a common commitment to global responsibility, Japan and Germany are natural partners and close friends. The German-Japanese friendship, which has grown over 150 years, offers the best prerequisites for jointly contributing to solving global challenges. It is a success story that deserves to be continued and strengthened and intensified by both partners.

The 150th anniversary year of the friendship treaty between Prussia and Japan offers a unique opportunity to bring Japan into public interest and awareness in Germany. The commitment to fundamental values ​​of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law creates a close connection between the two countries and, for Japan, a special position in the Asian region. Not only the catastrophes but also winning the 2011 women's soccer World Cup in Germany brought the country closer to the Germans. The games played by the Japanese team here in Germany were enthusiastic and the success will certainly help the country look to the future with hope. In the year of the tsunami, the quake of the century and the nuclear catastrophe, the Japanese women footballers raised new hopes far away from home and can help at least for a moment to forget the suffering of the past months.